The New Freewoman: No. 2, Vol. 1, July 1st 1913.
by Dora Marsden
"WATER, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink. " A ship-wrecked mariner stranded on a raft in a waste of waters, dying of thirst, would be a fair image to advance of those who are trying to cultivate the life within them on historic culture. So much there is about them which would seem to be able to nourish and satisfy life, and yet scarcely a beggarly drop to be squeezed from any source of culture known to men. From the West, men turn to the East; from the East they hurry to the West; from the Present into the Past; from the Past into the Future, and all with like result-life mocked with the lure of a satisfaction which invariably fails. This is the knavish trick which Intellect has played on Soul. Like an incompetent guide, it has tempted life away from paths where it is at home into strange territory where guide and follower alike are at a loss. The mirror of the intellect turned inwards- which is self-consciousness-has quickened life with wants which await satisfaction, but for which there appear to be no means at hand to satisfy. The guests invited to the feast sit at the bare board, some dissatisfied, and some making pretence that they are full-fed. But Hunger presides and, in truth, all know it. The life which is in men is lured on with false hopes, cheated and disappointed, and it is Intellect which plays the knave. The task attempted is one too difficult to be accomplished by the strength of effort which has hitherto been essayed by Intellect.
Historic cultures and historic moralities are the chronicle of the effects of this insufficiency of intellectual effort. For, note the role which culture fills in life. Culture in any community is the body of ready-made opinion, all-pervasive in the region where it holds sway, which is regularly accepted as a guide to conduct in human affairs. What the guide-book and sign-post are to the traveller in a strange country, culture is for conduct in life. It is the expressed digest of the experience of men, the would-be friendly hint, to later voyagers, of travellers who have earlier passed that way.
Culture therefore if it were what it is apprehended to be, would be a thing of extreme value, which none could afford to miss; which would be as necessary to wayfaring men as is the chart to the seaman. If this is what culture should be, why then is it that human culture has proved a deadly snare, pestilential as the vapours which hang over a foetid jungle; fatal to the people by whom it has been created ? Precisely because-intellect being limited to what it now is- any culture is premature. The people which evolves a too-early culture has as much chance of prospering as has the infant strictly dieted on green fruits.
It is plain to comprehend why. Self-consciousness has taken Intellect unawares. The method which it had learned through acquaintance with the static outward, bore no relation to the method necessary for the treating of the vital inward. Intellect has fashioned itself to meet the needs of conscious life which it could serve in the capacity of efficient tool far better than could instinct. It acts as an advance mirror, reporting the nature of external conditions inwards to its employer. Life is able to prejudge experience in the outer world, by means of Intellect as by a proxy. Life by Intellect can buy experience cheap where with instinct it bought it dear. It can therefore afford to buy more, as it has. Intellect has indeed canvassed the entire globe of material experience. It leaps to its task. It takes the universe for its province, reports home wonders, and carries its knowledge with ease. It grasps it into the fold of the hand and resolves it into systems. It classifies and labels, and has its pigeon-holes waiting in advance for aught new it may discover. And it is ever searching for the " new" on which to turn its mirror-that is why it has chanced to turn it inwards on its employer on individual life itself, and so has made conscious life, self-conscious; incidentally mistaking its function.
Intellect, like fire, is a good servant but a bad master, and its successes have given rise to the notion that intellectualisation is a master-role in life. In place of being directed it becomes director: in place of its performances being Judged by Soul-the individual basic life-it begins to judge the Soul-to prove that Soul is not there in short, and establishes itself in its place. The Torch begins to account itself greater than the Torch bearer.
That such a reversal should take place is natural enough. The Intellect was created and designed for the purpose of marking out safe path ways for life to tread among things in the outer world-in space. To recognise, know and trace the outline of things in space is its reason for existing. When therefore curiosity turned it back upon life, which it could feel but could not outline, it was unable to grasp the fact that the thing which it served, life-was of a totally different order from the things which it knew and dominated- objects in space. The historic record of human life on earth, is the tale of this bewilderment of Intellect faced with the phenomenon of life. It cannot- rather hitherto it has not-made the successful effort to mirror life.
Science is a triumph; Art is a tragedy, for Art is the attempted tale of the Soul. Science is a correspondence; for that to which it relates, it is true. Art is a fake; it is the putting up of something else to save the trouble of finding out what is truly there. In pressing its mirror back upon the inner life and failing to find the spatial qualities with which alone it has experience, Intellect has adopted one of three courses: either it has maintained that it could detect nothing there distinct from itself, or that the something which existed was identical with itself, or finding nothing but being conscious of a vague uneasiness, it has faked up false images and declared that these were what it found. The last is the common way. The faked concepts are the basis of human culture which is the outcome of human Art, of which the "progress" is a progression in falsity. True Art would be the expression of the human soul through Intellect, and Intellect jibs at the task, because to tackle it is to be compelled to act in a medium with which it is wholly unfamiliar. Its associations have all been with the concrete and the static, and life which reveals itself to the intellect only when it moves, in its moments of change, is an enigma. If, however, Intellect left the situation at that: declared life's meaning beyond its range, life might fare better.
But not at all; like a too-officious servant, Intellect presumes. All external things fit into frameworks; stow themselves up neatly in concepts, and so must life. Accordingly, we get the Symbols: the "Essences" of the things of the soul, which in reality, are nothing more than chance by-products of life's impulses. But they serve to meet the limitations of Intellect saturated with the associations of spatiality, and promptly Intellect makes effort to bundle life into the creaking frames.
Thus is the Symbol begotten: the Symbol which is not even an approximation to anything in life, but is the tracery of an arrangement among dead things which accidentally life in its passage through, has left. Is Life restive inside the Symbol? Then must Life learn Duty. Intellect garbed as Reason steps in to play the Clergyman, to preach Duty to the ideal, and rational submission.
" Thus spoke I to my heart in accents of chiding: Patience, I pray thee, my heart; thou hast borne even greater affliction."
The Ideal is any concept which can manage to gain a pedestal inside the sphere of the Intellect. The number of the Ideal is Legion, and the entire host of sacred concepts play guardian over the Soul, each laying rival claims to its allegiance-Liberty, Truth, Humanity, Justice, and the rest. The Soul squanders itself among them: the All spends itself on the Nothing. Not in vain do the lying thoughts take birth. The Self makes sacrifice to them as to a very Moloch. Even as Minerva, the goddess of Sham-Wisdom, sprang forth at birth, full-grown and fully armed from the brain of Jove, so these spurious children of the Intellect imported from alien realms, are born matured, strong to hold sway over the subjugated Soul.
It has been therefore almost inevitable that the soul should fall a victim to its own creation, and the explanation is forthcoming immediately the situation is squarely faced. Intellect unlike soul is a faculty, and like any other faculty acquires facility with training and practice. Growth of soul on the other hand, the integrating of personality, is a different matter. How to assist and quicken it is the problem which the culture of mankind has hitherto wholly failed to solve, and it is the common experience of men that Intellect of exceptional facility can be combined with a personality small out of all proportion to its intellectual mechanism. Intellect is far commoner than strength of being-Soul, to wit. Hence its presumption. Only when personality is strong is Rationalism put into its proper human relationship and only then do we get the creator of true art, the Light-bringer. The artist-in-ordinary, the creator of the marsh-lights which glimmer in human culture, is the worker in Intellect rather than in Soul, such a one as has never hovered over the deeps of personality-sighted his own vision of the moving impulse first-hand and face to face, and he fills in his mind's mirror with mind's conceits. He is a garland hanger, a weaver of dead patterns.
It is not to be considered that because our Art and Culture are intellect-bred, that they are therefore intellectual; that in inveighing against their production we are railing against the use of Intellect in Art. For quite the contrary is the case. The language of the soul-Art can never be produced until Intellect grows into itself-becomes Intellect more perfected. The function of Intellect is not absolute: it is relative; it is the furnisher of a concordance. It has worked well for Soul in matter: it has furnished true correspondences and laid nature like a book open ready for life's action to trace its paths therein. Its twos and twos have worked out into fours. In Art they have worked out as threes: of the living moving soul-impulse Intellect has established the wrong correspondence, the lying concept: and hence our deadly culture. The Soul, self-conscious life, calls to Intellect for illumination, that its darkness be lit up. Goethe's cry, " More light, Oh Lord, more light," is the common cry of the Soul that Intellect should revise and complete its work in relation to life. When Intellect responds we shall have Art, the record of the Soul moving consciously in Light. The creation of Art is the supreme effort of Soul and Intellect. Soul brings forth from its depths to the surface where mind with its mirror confronts it, the living impulse in its complex totality: the sum-total of all the attractions of all its lives in one complex retort. Mind presses to deliver as steadily as soul reaches upward for deliverance; and when each grips other, expression is achieved, light bursts forth, Art has birth.
" And the tremulous heaven yearned down, made
effort to reach the earth,
As the earth had done her best, in my passion, to
scale the sky. "
If for heaven we read Intellect, and for earth, Soul- the permanent Self-we have here an account of what happens when Art is born. No slack affair assuredly; not yet afterwards for Intellect, which cherishes the sighted impulses and plies them as with a good machine for correspondences, until they yield their true form and direction, which hand and eye and ear combine to publish forth. Such is Art. Much it has to do with Intellect, but with thought nothing save to lean to avoid it. Our present culutre is a thought-culture-sicklied over with the cast of the pale concept: it has nothing to do with changing life-nor with what is essential and true in Intellect.
Thought is delusion: thinking is a definite process: set in motion to liberate not thoughts but living impulses, not the fixed frame works of concepts, but self-directed force whose direction will be as unforeseeable as the individual- whose living soul it is-is solitary and unique; sole one of its kind; thinking's effect is to liberate life ready for action, not to bind it up to construct a system. Good thinking would prevent the formation of thoughts, as a good machine minimises waste. When we rally the forces in the depths of ourselves and we pray, our prayer should be, " Cleanse me of all thoughts. Let me not be stifled by their power. " Culture has produced nothing but thoughts and to make room for them has stifled life. We are at once a re-assertion, and a repudiation-a repudiation of thought and an assertion of life. We do not seek to solve the riddle of thoughts. We throw both thoughts and riddles overboard.
" A shipwrecked sailor, buried in this coast, bids you
Full many a gallant barque when we were lost,
weathered the gale."
Not in the seas of thought, oh mariner ! Two thousand years of failure have proved you too hopeful. It is not the gale which is to be feared but the waters sailed in, the depths of thought whose purpose is just to overcome men, suck them down and engulf them. We eschew them.
The New Freewoman: No. 2, Vol. 1, July 1st 1913.
by Dora Marsden
An aggravated subscriber (yea, subscriber) writes to ask what on earth THE NEW FREEWOMAN is driving at. "Can you not state the paper's attitude clearly ?" and another writer in the current issue asks whether we are advocating the "so-called Buddhist view that nothing temporal is real." We ourselves had felt that, like some navvy saddled with the task of boring through the Himalaya, we might potter about with the spade for a bit, and get to work gently, as it were; but apparently not; we are in danger of being held up for suspicious loitering. So let us lay to. Our quarrel with things in general is difficult to state in words for the precise reason that the biggest part of our quarrel is against words-against "thoughts." It is a quarrel with human culture, with the kinds of labels put on things-or rather on living activities. Following on this primary quarrel there are the quarrels by implication, quarrels with the stupid and deadly actions which take place misguided as they are by wrong labels: actions such as that of Socrates who courted death out of respect for the "State"-a fiction; or as that of Miss Davison who did the same out of respect for "Freedom"- a nothing. We can however bring the working out of our "attitude" much nearer home. Let us consider our own title, to which another irate subscriber begs us to "live up." ("Play up," she might have said with a more delicate sensing of what the process involved.)
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THE NEW FREEWOMAN: What there is of New in our attitude may to some extent be gathered from the preceding article in this issue- what may and what may not legitimately be inferred from the "Free" we pointed out in our first issue, now, taking the third bite at our titular cherry we come to the "Woman," last and most feared. Not so much to be feared however as the horror of being mistaken for a Buddhist; and therefore in reply to our contributor we hasten to say that we are not maintaining that "nothing temporal is real." We shall be prepared to maintain the contrary however, and say that "Nothing which is not temporal is real," and incidentally deny the Buddhist philosophy. The suggestion that we might be supporting it has given us enough of a fright to nerve us to the task of being explicit even at the risk of being tedious, and we will explain what we meant by saying that "Woman," spelt with a capital, Woman as-type, had no existence; that it is an empty concept and should be banished from language. We meant that there is no definite reality which can be substituted as that to which Woman corresponds, which is a thing and not an idea.
If we take "female reproductive organs" away from this concept Woman, what have we left ? Absolutely nothing, save a mountain of sentimental mush, such as we have when we take away the definite action of breaking through a barrier from the concept "Freedom." Woman-as-type is reproduction-in-all-its stages personified, that is, a simple reality messed up into a fiction. It is as nearly related to the first Amoeba as to any particular woman. Its notion is that of anything sploshing, something too big to contain itself: a bowl of dough worked on by the yeast.
We said its "notion"-that is its nearest associated reality. A bowl of dough is wholesome and real enough but "Woman" is not real even for the thing it suggests. Do you remember Olive Schreiner's "Three Dreams in a Desert"? There you have perfectly portrayed Woman-as-Type, Woman-as-Mother, Woman with the capital letter. You remember how the great bulk lay prone on the ground, with another lay figure tied on to her-Man- standing like a lath by her side. Then there came the creak of the machinery, the winding up of the wax works and the performance began. She moves, she stares, lifts her head, stands on her two legs, stares a bit more, and toddles off. End of scene one. Punch is spry in comparison. Scene two: Woman-as-type again, and third lay figure, Reason. More creaking of machinery, ventriloquist, with deep sepulchral note, says: "Listen! Feet, a thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands more-Woman. Beating this way: Following you: Track to the water's edge: dead bodies to make a bridge that IT may walk over. IT? What? The entire human race." `And the Woman grasped her staff and I saw her turn down that dark path to the river.' Scene three, more of the same sort. Well, well; this would be first rate on the village fair-ground, a perfect Aunt Sally when her hinges should have become too rusty to perform as a wax-work figure; but to carry it about in daily life: mould an action upon it, saddle it upon individual women; found a "movement" upon it. Pshaw! The fact is that we have had far too much of this "skirt" nonsense. We are weary of the sound of it.
"Woman Movement" forsooth. Why does not someone start a "straight-nose movement," or a "mole movement," or any other movement based upon some accidental physical contouration ? They would be as sensible as we who have run a "Skirts movement" which is the essential meaning of "woman movement. " Woman - Is there such a thing even as a woman sensed from the inside? If so, we have got to learn what it is. Never in the course of a long life have we felt "There, I feel that as a woman." Always things have been felt as individual and unique, as much related to other women as to other men-which is none at all; every thing has been sensed as of Ourself, of which the gender has yet to be learnt: the gender of the self we have yet to learn. For us it has no community with women: nor has it with men. It is solitary and unique.
Do we then repudiate sex, one asks? Again the questioner confuses the accidental outer with a real inner. Inner feeling, attracted impulse, occasionally enters the sphere of sex. But in itself feeling is sexless. It is not necessary to repudiate feeling or to harbour it; we can please ourselves regarding it. On the other hand the physical differences which are all which exist of sex, obviously are not exactly in our province either to repudiate or to acquire. If men and women would try to turn their attention away from the infinitesimally small differences which distinguish them, as handsome people have to turn their attention away from their good looks, we should soon have heard the last of Man and Woman spelt with capitals, and the day of the individual would be at hand. And the measure of the individual would be not sex, but individual power.
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Our reference to the Race and the Individual, has raised an old controversy which could, in our opinion be laid at one stroke, by denying the validity of the concept: "Race." It can be effectually maintained that the "Race" concept is made up as we make up the concept Eternity for instance, by adding together chunks of time-lengths placed end by end, until we are tired; then making pretence of totalling the additions, calling the total Eternity and placing this over against Time as an opposition. The Race is the concept formed by adding one individual to another, carrying on the process to boredom, slurring the finish, and dabbing on a label. Thus is the Race formed and placed in opposition to that which composes it: i.e., Individuals, as Eternity opposes its sole substance-Time. Our answer then is that the " Race " is empty when that which it opposes is taken from it. It is Nothing apart from the individual. The word should be abolished and a periphrasis put in its place.
But granting to the opposition for the moment, that "Race" may have a reason for existing-that what it connotes is a reality as yet uncovered by other and concrete labels, we can still state our attitude towards pretensions advanced in its name. If it is a reality, and has anything to give, we will accept it, but without any corresponding reciprocity. We have nothing to give to it. It is welcome however to our leavings when we are dead; old thoughts for instance, old systems, and any other cramping vestments made only to our measure we may leave behind. (Such things as these are we believe the only bequests of the race which the race-cultists have to show.) While we are alive however, we are too much engrossed with our own performance to be prepared to sacrifice to the Future. Moreover we believe that the individuals of the future, if they are worth anything at all, will be as well able to look after themselves, as we are to look after ourselves. In short there may be glorious and radiant individuals in the dim future as there have been in the past: but they are no concern of ours. Our joy is not in them: their beauty is not ours. We can adapt George Wither's lines and say of the future with truth,
" If it be not such for me,
What care I how good it be?"
There have been numerous requests that discussion of Mrs. Pankhurst's position be dropped. As to make a discussion there must be two sides, we can oblige between limits by dropping the correspondence, which we are willing to do for the occasion. There is one feature of this correspondence however of which we cannot deny ourselves the mention, to wit: the observation that we are "vulgar." One point at least in our "attitude" has been caught-our "commonness." It is cardinal, and we must insist on it. We are "common." This does not mean, either on our lips, or on others, that we are like everybody else. Tout au contraire ! It means that we are egoistic, individual, selfish. To be "common" with the "fine" means to be in the bonds of self-ish motives and to see others in the same- not to be under sway of the fine concepts; the "noble" emotions; to be running amok of the whole cultural structure. And so we are. We are seeking our individual satisfactions, and find instruction in tracing out the ridiculous figure cut by those who are gadding about pretending to seek other people's. To be insisting on dying for the benefit of nobody in particular-why you are fairly "fey," women! The concepts have got ye! "Thoughts have gone forth whose power . . ." and so on! There is more in that that meets the eye all at once. It is truer than it was meant to be! And so we, true to the vulgar, stridently break in on the harmonious dying, to endeavour to scatter the banshee horde. Again we suggest to Mrs. Pankhurst that she swallow the phrases of her yesterdays, and incidentally some of ours; grind the lying thoughts under her heel, scatter the wailers, and get back into life.
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We are asked to write more on "Topics." We imagined we were writing on topics. If we are not, the explanation may be that we are not topical, and to attempt to write on topics when one is not topical is, as the Babe we think once explained it was for such as were not tripical to go in for triposes-awkward. Probably, the explanation is that what is topical to us is not topical to others, as we noted when we saw school children writing on the pavement "what stakes on Ascot." The universe for us is divided into "Ourselves" and the "Others." The Others are all mixed up one with the rest; like a returning bank holiday picnic, they are linked together all in a row. It is impossible to tell where one begins and the other leaves off. It is consequently impossible to differentiate. I take politics for instance: the bye-election at Leicester. Three candidates offer to undertake the "government" of the people, and ask to be appointed to the job. What is the difference?: government is government. Who holds the whip makes little difference. Probably if one could be there to listen to the rival candidates, the Tory would doubtless be the most explicit and straightforwarded of the three. He would use fewer head-churning phrases about Liberty and the Workers. On public affairs: Marconi for instance. Mr. George and his confederates, when they pocketed the profits made between buying and selling, did what the denizens of Bow and Bromley would do if they dared and could. What other meaning has that "Insurrection" they speak of, than grabbing what they can by force of superior power? Doing, that is, what Mr. George did? No: we do not agree with our correspondent. We are not merely topical; we are the only people who are topical, marked by differences, since we are the only individuals definitely cut off from the rest- the only self-acknowledged Egoists, occupying a place apart.
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"Would not your Cause be better promoted . . ?" Dear friends and readers, THE NEW FREEWOMAN has no Cause. The nearest approach to a Cause it desires to attain, is to destroy Causes, and for the doing of this it finds its reward and incentive in its own satisfaction. THE NEW FREEWOMAN is not for the advancement of Woman, but for the empowering of individuals-men and women; it is not to set women free, but to demonstrate the fact that "freeing" is the individual's affair and must be done first-hand, and that individual power is the first step thereto; it is not to bring new thoughts to individuals, but to set the thinking mechanism to the task of destroying thoughts- to make plain that thinking has no merit in itself, but is a machine, of which the purpose is not to create something, but to liberate something: not to create thoughts but to set free life impulses. Its effect will be as though it had created new life-force: but in reality it will bare life to the light as the threshing-machine lays bare the corn.
Something like the foregoing is what the editorials will have to say: but for the rest of the paper, only a general sympathy with our "attitude" will be sought. Having no Cause we have no sacred ground, and no individual interpretations of life will be debarred beforehand. In the clash of opinion we shall expect to find our values.